On confidence and trust: Are we reliant on the child to boost our trust in parenting?

For as much resiliency as we have in raising children, parenting can sometimes feel like a defenseless place. We subconsciously seek validation, whether from our partner, ourselves, or even the stranger in line at the grocery store. This has nothing to do with weakness, rather merely evidence of our love, commitment, and absolute devotion to the child. We want to always be getting it right – not for us, but for them. Always for them, we ask ourselves, Am I good enough?

You are. We are good enough, but what kind of confidence do you have as a parent? Do you reflect upon your day, seeking validation from yourself? Or, do you look to the child for the self-assuredness we seek? If so, how much of that confidence is dependent upon the development of your child? If your child is thriving, is only then your self-confidence, too?

We have many responsibilities as parents, and part of this role is to ensure our children’s growth is going well. We consider their physical development, their personality, their identity, their joy. And we think about their education, too. How are they doing in school? What do they need? Are they thriving? Are they challenged? Are they kind? Are they happy? This is how we multi-task, right? No matter what a parent might do in a day, I believe these thoughts are always in mind. Our dear children. We do want to always get it right.  

Because of this incessant desire to know and to understand how our children are doing, many parents are eager to push things at home. This might establish a better sense of the child's progress in that way, but is a sense of control settling in here, too?  

When it comes to their education, we know it’s important and valuable to read with our children, to observe and nurture whatever interests them, and to provide them with an environment that is invigorating, pleasant, and joyful. We seek all the provisions and make all the effort in hopes of simply keeping them engaged, but if we force the child to rehearse their numbers or the alphabet at the dinner table, or to read the same book over and over until it is rote, is this deepening their growing mind, or does this merely make us feel more like an accomplished parent? 

If a distressed expectation is subconsciously put in place, the child might recognize it and feel it as such, but does the parent?  

We might find joy in flash cards with our children on a Sunday night, and there is absolute joy in learning together, but if we get to a place where we micro-manage their learning instead of simply spending quality time with them, a breach of trust settles in. To impose any kind of agenda – if only to appease our own morale – is to lack the confidence that the child cannot achieve this on his own, or, if he does, that he will do it wrong.  

We might ask ourselves how confident we are as the parent, but how confident are we in our children? How much do we trust our children to thrive in their own learning? How much do we respect their developmental process as it is? Do we believe they can rise to achievement on their own, or do we believe they need our control to get there?  

To trust the child is to abandon our expectation of how he needs to learn and to be confident instead that we are giving him the guidance, attention, and environment to succeed in his own way. We will always be asking ourselves, How are they doing? What do they need? Are they thriving? Are they challenged? Are they kind? Are they happy? But if we trust the child — if we advocate for his competence with all our might — the questions pare down to a simple and consistent thought that can apply to all growth in all their life: How engaged is the child? 

When we look for the engagement – the deep interest and investment in whatever the child desires – we see beautiful signs of concentration that take away any pressure or obligation to impose. Instead, the liberation and the joy in their work prevails. We become happy for the child, grateful to a be a part of their growth, however it comes, and we worry less about any confidence we might need to linger forever instead in theirs.  

Guidepost Montessori is a a global network of schools serving 3,500+ families with early education programs, including Emergency Care for Essential Workers (ECEW) during the COVID-19 crisis. Looking for more free content? Download Guidepost Parent from the App Store for personalized Montessori inspiration and activities.

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